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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • drought;
  • Europe;
  • Regional Climate Models;
  • ENSEMBLES;
  • uncertainty;
  • Standardized Precipitation Index;
  • self-calibrated Palmer Drought Severity Index

Abstract

Under the aspect of future climate change, it is important for decision makers to know how drought conditions might change on the regional scale in order to map out adequate adaptation and mitigation strategies. Recent RCM simulations provided by the ENSEMBLES project are used to analyse changes in dry and wet conditions in Europe by the mid of the 21st century under the A1B emission scenario. Eight RCMs are selected to capture the uncertainties of the projected changes. An empirical statistical error correction approach is applied to modelled daily mean air temperature and precipitation amount to account for RCM errors, and commonly used drought indices—the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), the self calibrated Palmer Z-Index (scZI) and Palmer Drought Severity Index (scPDSI)—are calculated. Changes in the mean, in interannual variability, and in frequency, length, distance, magnitude, and area of dry and wet events are investigated. The statistical significance of the projected multi-model mean changes and the according uncertainties are analysed for nine European subregions. Furthermore, distributional changes of the dry and wet spell characteristics are assessed. Changes in the mean, and in dry and wet event characteristics show the most pronounced changes towards drier and wetter conditions in the southern- and northernmost European subregions, respectively. Here, the changes are highly significant and confident, while the projected changes are more dissonant for the other subregions. Severe changes in the extremes of event length, distance, magnitude, and area particularly arise in the southern- and northernmost European subregions. The projected changes in interannual variability are less significant and confident. However, significantly increasing interannual variability is projected in regions with pronounced changes in the mean towards wetter as well as towards drier conditions. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society